2022 Ready by Five Millage Service Highlights
Play and Learn
Play and Learn programs provide quality early learning experiences for young children while strengthening their adult caretakers’ understanding of child development. Every play and learn group consists of age-appropriate activities that enrich holistic development of social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Caretakers learn what they can do at home to continue nurturing those skills.
Each session contains defined, essential learning objectives for the child and the caretaker. Each child who attends generally leaves with a small takeaway project or book to extend the age-appropriate learning that occurred. Programs also offer linkages to developmental screenings and early intervention services.
"Children have benefited from this program in many ways. They are more eager to read and want to learn more. Children have access to more books and want them read to them," said one Vibrant Futures Little Learners playgroup participant.
Reducing the Risk of Infant Mortality
The death of a baby is an excruciating loss for a family and community; it’s particularly tragic when it could have been prevented. To have interventions that are targeted and effective, it is necessary to know the causes and contributors to infant mortality that are specific to Kent County. Understanding that is the work of the Fetal Infant Mortality Review Program, which is run by the Kent County Health Department and funded by the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage.
Since funding was re-introduced for this network, the Kent County Health Department has been leading a group of community partners in data collection, evaluation, and analysis of infant mortality.
The first report of the Kent County Fetal Infant Mortality Review Program was published in 2022. The data in the report shines a bright light on disparities, causes, and contributing factors and lifts up recommendations to reduce infant death as a whole and decrease persistent racial and ethnic disparities.
“Let them lead the way when we play,” was a key takeaway from one parent who participated in Vibrant Futures’ Little Scholars, a home visiting program.
Children learn when they have the support and encouragement of interactive parents and caregivers. Having a session with a home visiting coach adds a fun, meaningful activity that babies and parents can learn from.
Parents report that home visiting programs help them improve their parenting skills and gain confidence. More than 10,000 homes visits were completed in 2022, reaching nearly 1,200 children and expecting parents. Rigorous evaluation of high-quality home visiting programs has shown positive impact on reducing incidences of child abuse and neglect, improving birth outcomes, improving school readiness for young children, and increasing high school graduation rates for mothers participating in the programs.
Outreach and Navigation
In 2022, the eight Ready by Five Outreach and Navigation programs were successful in reaching families more than 49,000 times and completing 10,500 screenings. Programs provided 3,900 referrals in which a family had a confirmed outcome. In many cases, without Outreach and Navigation, the family likely would not have engaged with those community services. The most requested supports are below.
“Baby Scholars helped me realize the things I was good at. I'm so busy with balancing work and having time and energy for my son but my coach really helped me with finding space to teach and help my son grow smarter.”- Baby Scholars Participant
Supporting Behavioral Health of Young Children
In recent years, more children and parents have been looking for support related to behaviors and social-emotional delays. This is commonly played out in child care and state-funded early learning programs. Recent data shows that, within early learning, there are significant disparities in children of color being suspended for behavioral concerns.
Ready by Five funding has expanded the evidenced-based program that utilizes the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) model, by teaming a mental health professional with early care and education staff and families to promote positive social and emotional development of children in care. These programs support children’s social-emotional health from infancy through age five.
Child Safety Initiatives
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, sleep-related infant deaths are the leading cause of death among infants in Michigan. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young children, and properly restrained children have a more than 50 percent greater chance of surviving a crash.
To ensure the safety of all babies and young children, car seats and safe sleep programs are now being offered to families with children through age five who live in Kent County. Three organizations are providing car seats and portable cribs, along with the training necessary for families who meet income qualifications. Bethany Christian Services, Cherry Health, and Family Futures serve households with income below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
Lead Identification and Remediation
Lead in the home is a silent and prevalent danger in Kent County, as four out of five homes in the city of Grand Rapids and nearly three out of five countywide were built before 1978, the year lead was banned from paint. Exposure to even low amounts of lead can cause irreversible neurological, developmental, and health issues. Early identification of lead in the home followed by remediation are critical to eliminating exposure.
In 2022, Ready by Five-funded programs completed 378 risk screenings, comprehensive assessments, and follow-up screenings. Of homes screened for environmental hazards, lead was the most identified risk (in 115 screenings). The screening also identified other hazards, including those that contribute to asthma, injuries, and pests. Many of these additional risks were mitigated through educating and problem-solving with the family.